Scott Clifton has been having an longtime argument with William Lane Craig over the Kalam cosmological argument. Craig has basically made a whole career out of this argument. And it boggles my mind. Clifton has taken the argument on in great detail. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that he has totally destroyed Craig’s argument. Of course Craig would never admit this. As much as I admire Craig’s abilities as an apologist, he is a true believer. Nothing can shake his faith and his blinders are so big that he can’t even see straight ahead.
The Kalam cosmological argument is pretty simple. Basically, it is that the universe must have a cause because everything in the universe has a cause. If that seems slippery, it should. Everything in the universe has a cause therefore the container of everything has a cause? That could be true. But it doesn’t follow deductively. Clifton distinguishes this as creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) and ex materia (out of existing material). But it really isn’t necessary to get technical about this stuff. Truthfully, it makes my brain hurt. And it doesn’t matter how carefully Clifton nails down the argument, Craig will never accept it.
Of course Clifton knows this. He talks about how Craig works back from his conclusions. Craig starts with, “God exists.” And then he ends with any number of “assumptions” — including the idea that everything that starts to exist must have a creator. And this turns Craig into a very silly person, except for those who are as determined to believe Christianity as he is. One time, I saw a debate between Craig and Sam Harris on the question, Is God Good? Harris (who I don’t think that highly of regarding his intellect), totally destroyed Craig. But it didn’t matter, because Craig’s entire argument was, “If God does it, it must be good.” The fact that you could make the same argument for Satan or Hanuman doesn’t apparently bother Craig, because he knows he is the follower of the “right god.”
To me, the counter argument to Kalam is very simple. We humans are parochial. Our experience of the universe is constrained. That’s why relatively theory seems so strange to us. We aren’t in the habit of interacting with objects moving near the speed of light. To give you some idea of this, the New Horizons spacecraft was traveling at 35,000 mph — that’s just 0.005% of the speed of light. But at least that is us being parochial about things inside the universe. It’s a joke to think that our experiences inside the universe would provide us with any kind of intuitions about the way universes are created.
If you read much Christian apologetics, you will see that it is most clearly not an intellectually honest endeavor. But it isn’t even intended to convince nonbelievers. It is meant as a kind of pacifier for believers. It allows them to dismiss cogent arguments against their faith with a facile claim, “We too have intellectual-sounding arguments that prove that we are right.” This is the same thing that is going on in the intelligent design movement. The problem with it is that believers have mistaken it for truth and pushed it out into the wide world where it has been systematically dismantled.
Scott Clifton has done the same thing for Craig’s argument. I admire that. Unfortunately, I don’t have the patience to take clearly incoherent and disingenuous arguments seriously. The Kalam cosmological argument is not serious. On the other hand, it is an example of an issue that I care very much about: modern Christians really aren’t interested in ontology. Their theology is firmly rooted inside the universe. And that throws away the only part of religion that is interesting. Really what Craig is arguing is that the universe is inside some larger universe that he defines as God. And that is question begging. But why should he care as long as other true believers keep paying for his books and speeches so they can feel better about the avalanche of data pushing against their faith?